Schumer Presses for Expansion of NEXUS Program

Appearing recently with other American and Canadian officials at the Peace Bridge U.S.-Canada border crossing in Buffalo, New York, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called for an expansion of the NEXUS program to expedite travel between the United States and its northern neighbor.

Saying that the “maddening traffic” around U.S.-Canada border crossings in New York is discouraging both business travel and tourism between the two countries, Schumer outlined his plan to boost NEXUS enrollment. The NEXUS program provides pre-approved travelers with a NEXUS passport, which is a Radio Frequency Identification card similar to the E-ZPasses many New Yorkers use to pay highway tolls. Because the NEXUS passport can be easily screened at the border, holders can cross back and forth between the United States and Canada without having to undergo lengthy interviews with immigration officials.

The NEXUS program is also economical, as it costs $50 to enroll. This is less than the cost of a U.S. passport, which runs to $135 for a 10-year passport book and card. A NEXUS passport eliminates the need for a U.S. passport to travel to Canada. Still, Schumer said many people have not participated because the pre-screening process is inconvenient.

While people can fill out NEXUS applications online, they must appear for an interview at a designated location. In the United States, the only interview location is at the Whirlpool Bridge in Niagara Falls, and in Canada, the only locations are at border crossings and international airports. Schumer introduced a plan to open enrollment centers at more convenient locations. He also called for more READY Lanes to support NEXUS passage at busy crossings like the Peace Bridge and Whirlpool Bridge, which handle $30 billion in cross-border commerce annually.

“Simply put, this new plan will mean that more pre-approved workers, vacationers and shoppers alike will be zipping right across the border to spend their time in Western New York,” Schumer said.

The senator submitted a letter detailing his proposal to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, President of the Canada Border Services Luc Portelance and other officials.

On November 29, the House of Representatives voted to approve a bill eliminating business visa per-country caps. Calling these caps “oudated constraints” that stifle economic growth, Schumer said he would work to make sure the bill also wins swift passage through the Senate, The Associated Press reported.